The Church Pension Fund (CPF) is a joint financial service organization created by the Episcopal Church, Westpath Benefits and Investments of the United Methodist Church. The organization announced their latest investment fund totaling $60.8 million and called the Off-Grid, Renewable and Climate Action (ORCA) Impact Note. The investment will provide funding to participating banks and operating companies to develop renewable energy projects in nine developing countries across Asia, South America and Africa.
Electricity is essential to economic and social development but an estimated 1.2 billion people around the world lack access to it. Nearly 600 million, or 70 percent, of the population of sub-Saharan Africa does not have access to sources of electricity, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
The parts of Africa that do have electricity have hydropower or fossil-fuel based electric generation in mostly urban and coastal regions. Micro-grid solar and other portable solar technologies are providing solutions as off-grid electric sources in underdeveloped regions. CPF’s investments support women and minority-owned firms, urban redevelopment projects and creation of clean energy sources and infrastructure where it’s desperately needed.
CPF is currently involved in 23 socially responsible investments worldwide totaling nearly $1 billion. The ORCA Impact Note will focus on clean energy development in Ecuador, Guatemala, India, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Rwanda, and Tanzania.
“The Church Pension Fund was pleased to serve as an anchor investor, which helped bring other investors to the table to provide renewable energy finance loans to social businesses in the developing world,” said Roger Sayler, managing director and chief investment officer of CPF. “This investment will impact the lives of people on three different continents and is reflective of our commitment to doing good while earning a competitive rate of return. We look forward to building our relationship with developing world markets as we continue to explore future socially responsible investment opportunities.”
In recent years, the declining cost of solar has made it competitive with other energy sources, especially in areas that do not have existing transmission infrastructure. Countries in Africa are looking to increase development of off-grid solar systems with the help of the international community. For instance, the US Agency for International Development awarded $4 million to eight solar start-ups through a competition called Scaling Off-Grid Energy: Grand Challenge for Development in November of 2016. The awards were allocated to solar companies that created innovative business models to expand African solar markets, improve grid distribution, while decreasing the costs of electricity for customers.Tweet